Skip to main content

New research highlights the effectiveness of immune therapies for type 1 diabetes

The research, which was co-funded by JDRF, reveals that drugs that target the immune system offer very effective and rapid improvements in stabilising blood sugar levels, often within just three months.
6 November 2023

T cell immune system

In a research paper published in the Lancet journal, an international team of researchers combined data from 21 clinical trials of immune therapies, or immunotherapies, which revealed the incredible potential of immunotherapy to treat people newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Immune therapies target the immune attack

Clinical trials have demonstrated that immunotherapies can interfere with the destruction of insulin-producing cells, called beta cells. Preserving beta cells allows people developing type 1 diabetes to keep making their own insulin for longer. If people with type 1 can produce even a small amount of insulin, their type 1 may be considerably easier to manage, a phenomenon known as the honeymoon phase.

Global team of researchers

The research group includes leading immunologists from JDRF, Cardiff University, Critical Path Institute, University of Alberta, Colorado University and the pharmaceutical industry including JDRF-funded researcher Professor Colin Dayan. Professor Colin Dayan from Cardiff University said: “This research supports the role of immunotherapy, focusing on preventing the autoimmune destruction of insulin producing cells, rather than simply relying on insulin to treat the resulting insulin deficiency. Potentially screening programs could detect people at high risk of type 1 diabetes, and these treatments could be used even earlier with the ultimate aim of preventing childhood type 1 diabetes.”


Delaying type 1 beyond childhood

Currently, immune therapies can delay the onset of type 1 diabetes and the need for insulin treatment. This delay is crucial to limit the prevalence of type 1 in childhood, where the condition can be more challenging to manage due to the hormones involved in puberty. Giving children their childhood back is an exciting possibility thanks to immunotherapy drugs. Combining immune therapies and fine-tuning the drugs offers hope that we could one day halt the immune attack completely.

Importance of C-peptide

C-peptide (short for connecting peptide) is needed to make insulin. Beta cells release C-peptide with insulin in equal amounts, but insulin is used quickly so it is difficult to measure. Measuring the amount of C-peptide in a blood sample is an accurate measure of how much insulin beta cells are releasing.

This new research established the importance of C-peptide as a biological marker of type 1. This offers an effective tool to measure the success of clinical trials and understand how well people are managing their type 1.

Research to reality

The research heralds a new era of type 1 diabetes treatment. We must now help get these powerful drugs into the hands of people who can benefit from them. Joint first author Dr Kimberly Collins, joint lead researcher from the Critical Path Institute said: “The data and analysis performed in this exciting project have provided the basis for an invaluable clinical trial simulation tool to promote faster and more efficient clinical trials in this space.”

Related news

Read more
Nina Willer, who used hybrid closed loop technology through pregnancy, and her child.
Treatment research
7 November 2023

Hybrid closed loop technology set to be made available in England and Wales

The announcement is the biggest treatment breakthrough for type 1 diabetes since the discovery of insulin.

Read more
Dr Ify Mordi, lead type 1 diabetes researcher
Clinical trials
25 October 2023

JDRF award £1.5 million grant to University of Dundee for type 1 diabetes clinical trial

The new JDRF-funded clinical trial called SOPHIST will test a drug to help people with type 1 diabetes and heart failure.

Read more
Young person receiving an injection of the immunotherapy drug teplizumab.jpg
18 October 2023

Clinical trial finds teplizumab slows type 1 diabetes in people newly diagnosed 

Results from a clinical trial called the PROTECT study show that teplizumab can preserve beta cell function in children and adolescents newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Read more
ELSA testing kits to screen for type 1 diabetes in children
Prevention research
16 October 2023

Trial to screen children for type 1 diabetes now available in Northern Ireland

Children in Northern Ireland are now eligible for a trial screening programme that will identify those at high risk of developing type 1 diabetes in the future.

Connect with us on social